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Understanding how a type of childhood leukaemia called mixed lineage leukaemia (MLL) begins.

  • Researcher: Dr Steven Gamblin
  • Institution: The Francis Crick Institute
  • Award Amount: £103,741 for 2 years from May 2014
  • Cancer Type: Leukaemia
Understanding how a type of childhood leukaemia called mixed lineage leukaemia (MLL) begins.

Every cell in our body contains thousands of genes. Genes are like our blueprint - they determine everything that our cells do. Cancer is caused by changes to either the structure or activity of key genes that regulate how the cells operate, divide and die. One way that cells control this activity is to add specific chemical groups or 'tags' on to the genes, or the proteins that act as scaffolding for the genes, to ensure that only the correct genes are active. The addition of tags can lead to an increase or decrease in gene activity. This often happens incorrectly in cancers and the change in gene activity drives the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour. It is incorrect tagging, and the resulting incorrect messages it causes, that leads to a type of childhood leukaemia called “mixed lineage leukaemia” or MLL. In MLL, several different proteins work together in a complex to control a protein called the MLL1 enzyme, which places these tags. The ultimate aim of Dr Gamblin's project is to produce a high resolution X-Ray structure of the MLL1 protein complex, so the researchers can see the exact shape and explain how it works. Dr Gamblin believes this work could help build the foundation for future drug development studies.

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